Aging is beautiful and gray hair is not only beautiful, but something to be proud of. After all you've earned all those gray or white hairs. Stand up and say, "I'm gray and proud of it!" Better yet, "I'm a senior citizen and PROUD of it!" This blog is in honor of all the aging, graying, baby boomer, senior citizens, Grandmothers, Nana's, Grandma's and Grannies out there. If you're young and gray-haired or white-haired this blog is for you, too.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Pat Winter's "The Comfort Doll Project"

I think you know that I just love the worldwide Arts & Crafts community on the web and find that everyone is so kindhearted and willing to help if they can. Well, there is an exceptional woman amongst the artists and crafters that I want to tell you about.

Her name is Pat Winter. Her blog is Gatherings By Pat Winter. However, the reason why Pat is so wonderful has nothing to do with her enormous talent as an artist. Nor does it have to do with her website or blog.

It has to do with her heart and her desire to help comfort someone else through an experience she was all too familiar with. It is because she started a beautiful project to help comfort battered woman called "The Comfort Doll Project."

I asked Pat if she would be willing to answer some questions for me regarding "The Comfort Doll Project" and she so willingly agreed.

1) What is "The Comfort Doll Project?"

The Comfort Doll Project is a program for battered and abused women in shelter's to receive a handmade doll with an inspirational note attached in hopes she feels comfort in knowing she is not alone and can get through her situation. In July I sent out an open invitation for anyone wanting to make a small doll , under 6", to be collected by me and mailed off to women's shelter's for battered women who are seeking help to better their lives and may need a comforting wish.

2) Why did you start this? What was your motivation?

What got me started was when an online group I am in, Crazy Quilting International about charity project suggestions. I knew of no other handcrafted donations given to Women's Shelter's, so I decided that would be a wonderful place to give.

Believe it or not, I was motivated by a doll I purchased from an artist, Linda Feuge of New York. I felt such a thrill and comfort in that doll and was surprised by my reaction. Having been a an abusive relationship long ago, I felt this need to offer other abused women the same experience a doll can bring. Especially when given from the heart and intended for them.

3) Since the comfort doll project began in July 2007 how many dolls have been made and how many recipients have received them?

To date, I have received 178 comfort dolls. Jo has received 14 I believe. I have shipped out 172 dolls to fourteen Women's shelters. I ship one dozen at a time.

4) How many shelters have received the dolls and what countries are they in?

Fourteen Shelter's have received one dozen dolls except one, who received 4 extras because they currently had 16 women in house at that time and felt they each needed one. All but one dozen were donated within the US. The other dozen was collected and distributed to a shelter in New Zealand by my friend and volunteer, Jo Newsham who resides there. I eventually want to send to each country from which the dolls were made and donated from.

5) What has been the reaction from the recipients? Have you received any feedback?

When I phone the Shelter's, I ask the directors if I could get a return acknowledgement after they receive the dolls so I can share it with the donors and let them know where their doll went. I post these on the Comfort Doll Blog when they arrive.

Many wonderful letters have been received and some emails thanking us and letting us know they were such a big hit with the women. There is a shelter director who is collecting comments from the recipients and soon she will forward them to me to share. When I describe our project, the usual reaction is "What a wonderful and needful thing to do". I must admit, one letter about one of the recipients had me in tears. It touches their souls, as if they were a child receiving their first doll. That's what it's all about.

6) Do the dolls just go to battered women or do they also go to battered children?

The dolls are intended for women because of the message of encouragement attached written for a woman. Also most dolls are embellished with tiny objects and beads which could harm children . I would love to do both, but I decided to direct the dolls to the women because from my own past personal experience I know the feeling of being in a bad situation.How hopeless you feel when you think you are the only one and alone. I am hoping this shows the recipient, she is not alone.

7) How often do the dolls get distributed?

The moment I collect one dozen, and I have a confirmed shelter address, they are tagged, bagged, and mailed out, usually next day.

8) How many artists and crafters are involved with the project and what countries are they from?

It is amazing, so far I have received dolls from 54 artists many sending several at a time, and the number grows weekly with interested women emailing for info. I have collected dolls from Singapore, New Zealand, Australia, Canada, Norway, Germany, Netherlands, England and several from France, and from 21 states.

9) Do you have to be a crafter or an artist to create a doll?

Absolutely not. I am a crazy quilter, not a doll maker,but I have learned so much from other's work. Dolls of every material has been donated, including ones made from wine corks. I believe, if it is from the heart, it's art. No labels needed to participate in the Comfort Doll Project.

10) Do you have a favorite amongst all the dolls that have been made and distributed?

There is such a variety, I could not possibly pick a favorite. To hold each piece of work in my hand gives me the warm fuzzies. I know each is made from love and from the maker's heart. Our motto is, "Given from our hearts what we make from our hands".

11) What do you tell a recipient when you give her a doll?

I wish I was the one presenting the dolls,but I only get to speak to the Shelter Directors. I let them know for whom they are intended, and from whom they are created. I ship a letter stating our intent with each box. There is a need for comforting women who have been abused and battered, some take it better than other's, and those who are frightened more than most, will hopefully find comfort and inspiration in her doll.

12) What are your long range goals for "The Comfort Doll Project?"

I wish I could continue collecting enough dolls to send a dozen to each state, then the countries from which the donors are from, then start all over again.

13) If someone wants to participate what do they need to do?

They can read about the project on my blog or web site, or they can email me anytime.

14) If you're not an artist or crafter or someone who sews is there some other way to contribute to "The Comfort Doll Project?"

Of course. You may sponsor a shipment for $5.00. That covers most of the Priority mailing fee. You will get credit as a sponsor of that particular dozen sent. You may send an encouraging message in a sealed envelope which I will include in a shipment for a woman. You really don't have to sew or be a doll maker. I just received three beautiful dolls made by a cross stitcher. She completed her design and stuffed it adding fabric on the back. Like I said, mixed media artists used weaving, corks, crazy quilting, beading, it is all in what you can think up. I do have free doll pattern sites listed on my blog for reference.

15) Is there anything else you'd like to tell us?

My intentions in starting this project was to offer a venue for women to share their creations to comfort and show support of other women. It is not a fund raiser, I am not asking for money, and would only accept money with the intent of it going toward postage. The women who have participated have found it to be rewarding in many ways. Several women have started their own shelter donations within their states and countries. I have been told various other projects have grown from this idea. It is just awesome to see hearts open and share so freely. It truly does make the world a smaller place and much warmer to live in.

I am very proud of every donor, and so very grateful for each of them. Receiving joy in giving a part of ourselves to strangers is a wonderful gift we can give ourselves, and it continues to grow as this project shows. I want to thank every donor, and you as well, for showing your support for the Comfort Doll Project.

Pat Winter

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Helena's Opinion

Usually I don't post anything regarding politics, religion, my personal opinion on various "hot button" issues, etc.

However, Helena came to me and asked if she could post something on the "grays" (of which she is a vital member) blog and was so convincing that I just had to give her the podium.

So, here's what Helena" had to say:

"Linda, I know that you don't like to discuss politics on your blog, but something phenomenal and dear to the hearts of all the female baby boomers who have grown up during the "old boy network" attitudes of the 40,s, 50's, 60's 70's, 80's, 90's, and 20's era happened last night. Hillary won the New Hampshire primary."

"Now I know a lot of women, especially young women, will think that's no big deal. Well, for all of us who have experienced what it was like for women in the "old boy network" workplace in the early years and all the cultural pressures on women - it is a very big deal."

"You see, back then women were at the bottom of the workplace barrel and weren't even given the opportunity to hold managerial positions, sit on the boards of corporations, or even hold executive positions. In fact, if you look at the annual reports of most of the corporations from those early era's you won't see pictures of any women. Now how pathetic was that?"

"Young women growing up today have so many, many rights that were denied to women of my generation, and yet, they aren't really aware of it. It's been a long, long time since the suffrage movement, and a long hard haul for the women's rights movement and finally, after decades of fighting one women may just become the VERY FIRST female president of the United States."

"Well, for all of the baby boomer women that is a VERY BIG DEAL and should be a VERY BIG DEAL for ALL women no matter what their age. That's just my opinion - but I'm sticking to it."

"So, I hope I speak for the rest of the "gray's" when I say HILLARY - YOU GO GIRL! A win in New Hampshire - onward and upward. Next step the white house!"

"Thank-you, Linda for letting me voice my opinion. "

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

We've Come A Long Way, Baby and Still Have A Long Way To Go!

I wrote this article two years ago for my Linda's Blog and thought you might enjoy seeing it over here. We have come a long, long way, baby - but, we still have a long, long way to go. Enjoy the article.

I love to just browse through history books, genealogy records, and the encyclopedia. Browsing through the Wikipedia encyclopedia I came across the women's suffrage stamp that's shown in the picture on the left.

In looking at the women's suffrage stamp I got to thinking about my great, great Aunt "Flossie" and my Grandmother "Dee."

Why did these two women come to mind when I saw the stamp?

Because they grew up during the time that the women's suffrage movement was at its peak.

Little history lesson : American women earned the right to vote with the passage of the 19Th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution in 1920. This amendment was finally accomplished after years (actually decades, if not centuries) of effort by women, in general, and the women's suffrage movement, in particular.

My "Flossie" Victorian doll pattern is named after my great, great Aunt Florence, who is shown in the picture on the right.

My great, great Aunt Flossie was born in 1882 and was the first women to go to college in our family. She graduated from Tufts University in 1904. She then went on to be one of the first women to work for the State Department of Corporations and Taxation. She worked for the state until she retired in 1947.

My "Dee" Victorian doll pattern is named after my Grandmother Doris, who is shown in the picture below. My Grandmother "Dee" was born in 1896, went on to Salem Teachers College and graduated with a teaching degree in 1917.

My great, great Aunt "Flossie" was a true believer of women's rights, as was my Grandmother "Dee." Both women were very intelligent and were very strong women. Both were very confident in themselves and both held strong beliefs and convictions.

Their beliefs were aligned with that of the women's rights movement and, in particular, the right to vote. I would have to say that their beliefs definitely had a profound affect on my mother which, in turn, had an affect on me.

As an aside. I just love asides, don't I? The only weakness in my Grandmother as far as women's rights were concerned had to do with the wearing of pants. She strongly disagreed with this fashion statement and was very critical of my Mother for wearing them. I never saw my Grandmother in anything but a dress or skirt. God forbid a bathing suit. Yikes!

In any event, where is all this leading us. In thinking about all of this I came to the sad realization that some of the young women of today don't realize how difficult the path for women's rights has been and how important the right to vote is. Some don't realize how far women's rights have come.

Just the difference in rights between now and 35 years ago when I started working is staggering. While the changes in the workplace are very evident and promising, they still have a long way to go.

When I started working "old boy networks" were the norm. Women really weren't wanted in the workplace. Most of the boards of directors of all the companies were men. All of the executives, to be sure, were. All the politicians were men. And so on, and so on, and so on....

A women executive, no way. The men would say "they don't have the skills." I would argue "how can we get the skills if you never give us a chance?"

My Grandmother and Great, Great Aunt lived in some amazing times for women. They would be astonished at the accomplishments of women today.

That said, however, we still have not had a female President. The number of females in Congress is still far too little and one of the only two females on the Supreme Court has retired.

The women in my Grandmothers and Great, Great Aunts day had to fight for their rights and fight for the right to vote. We've come a long way, baby (how true). Yet, we've still got a long way to go.